Category Archives: Grief

Why I Stopped Trying to Have Another Child

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Time to rest.

Last night, for the 414th time, I heard it again:

The unintentionally-offensive-you’re-lucky-you-only-have-one-kid remark.

You know the kind.  It also comes in the form of, “Is she your only?” and “only children are so lonely and spoiled” and “I would never do that to a child, have them be the only.”

This time, instead of a meltdown, it was nothing a knowing grimace from my husband couldn’t fix.  This time, instead of letting it stab me like a knife, it was a momentary wince and I moved on.   I watched my daughter trot from house to house, collecting candy gleefully.

*****

Today, I was thinking about how much I’ve had to fight.

First, I thought about how much I’ve fought to have a second child.  I tried for two years.  My husband and I tried having sex every other day, at points.  We got pregnant – to have it end in miscarriage, and to have a D&C I had to fight for because it was a holiday and no one wanted to stay late at the hospital.  I paid $1600 for acupuncture that wasn’t covered by health insurance, took herbs and stopped running.  A family member paid $500 for a failed IUI that wasn’t covered by health insurance, and since we don’t have 7,000 extra to spare, an IVF or even extra IUI’s were out of the question.

Second, I thought about how much I’ve fought in my life thus far.

In early school years, I fought to understand why the students at school hated me because of my weight, and I fought to understand why I was being touched by a classmate inappropriately in the fourth grade and why no one was doing anything about it, even though I told them.   I fought to understand why drug paraphernalia was in my house at a young age.   I fought to understand why people wouldn’t just leave me alone as I became smaller and smaller, since it solved everything anyway.

I fought harder still in college to understand why I couldn’t drink like everyone else, why guy friends had to carry me home after I insulted or hit one of them.  I fought to understand why my father refused to accept that I had an eating disorder, as a social worker confronted him in treatment.  I fought to educate family members, close ones, that I needed to eat at certain times during the day right out of treatment, and that I just wasn’t trying to be a nuisance to older family members.  I fought to stay sober, one day at a time, and fought to make family members understand that my sober anniversaries were actually a big deal and something I wanted to be recognized for.

I unsuccessfully fought to have extended family members unconditionally love me after I spoke my truth about our family, and fought to have in-laws see me as something more than “that antisocial girl who’s too serious”.  I fought to understand how the bomb near the finish line my husband stepped on somehow didn’t detonate during the Boston Bombing.  I fought to get my dad’s brain researched after he died, just like he wanted, packing ice around his head.  I fought back snarling insults as I felt others’ judgment about choosing to live with my mother and bipolar brother.  I fought tooth and nail to climb in my chosen career, only to live paycheck to paycheck.  I fought for my marriage in couples therapy as it floundered.

So yes, I guess you could say I’m tired of fighting.

And I’m good with fighting anymore, for anything else, including a child.

In fact, I’m all set.

If you want me, come and get me.

*****

I’m gonna go ahead and liken infertility to a regular old loss.  It doesn’t hurt any less as the years go on; you just get more used to dealing with it.  You get used to the remarks, seeing bright, shining pictures of families with at least two siblings beam at you from Facebook, and you feel that old, familiar pain.  But this time, it’s in the rearview mirror.

I have a family.

And I have me.  And I tell the truth.  And a lot of people don’t like that and never will.

And despite what a lot of people think, I’m fucking remarkable.

 

Pretty

momdadfionaThe sunset was pretty tonight.  It’s always pretty to me.  Halloween night, the sky was patterned with spotty white clouds, one perfectly like the next.  Tonight, there was a tinge of yellow and pink on the horizon.  Nothing spectacular, but enough to remind me of one of the perks of being alive.

I was told twice this weekend I was pretty.  I’m not sure if that amounts to a hill of beans, but it’s always something I “had”, at least since I stopped being an overweight pre-teen.

I’m fairly sure half of my readers just gave up on this post; I wouldn’t blame them, for thinking I’m vain.  I am.  I can be.  I think we all can be, at least most of us.

My father always talked about sunsets.  And so the sunset made me think of him, which made me think of time.  Because it’s almost been a year since he died.  And how time can strip you of many things – people, energy, health, looks.  Time is frightening.  Pressing, like a weight on your chest until there isn’t space anymore.

I find it frightening that I once was 15 and could operate on six hours of sleep with no problem, and now it’s twenty years later and sciatica is a common word in my vocabulary.  I find it frightening that I once had a tiny five pounder, and now I have a three year old who acts twenty-five and regularly asks me what words “In Spanish” are.  I find it frightening that a year ago, my father existed, as emaciated and twisted as he appeared at the end, and now…he just doesn’t.

Eating disorders are a good distraction from the real issues at hand.  Want to avoid your feelings?  Eat only raw vegetables and protein during the day for prolonged periods of time.  Want to forget that you’re a living breathing human being who will one day, too, stop breathing and stop existing?  Fixate on the fact that you’re becoming less pretty.  It’s a nice “smoke and mirrors” to the friend who you’ve lost from your life, or the brother that just won’t get well.

That’s where I’ve been lately.  Pulling at my jeans because I have gained weight, and I’d rather focus on that than on the fact my Dad’s been dead for a year.  Looking at my growing-out hair, and grimacing, because it makes me look old and fat.  Rather than think about the fact that some of the friends I had in my life last year aren’t here now.

Change: it’s a real ball breaker.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the compliments.  But it always gets my disordered brain thinking, “what if I wasn’t?  Would they still like me?  Would they pay as much attention to me?  What will happen when I’m old, saggy and grey?  Will I ever be able to let go of this attachment of self-worth to appearance?”

I’m sure this all sounds remarkably self-involved; I don’t know what to say.  Parts of me aren’t pretty on the inside.  It’s just the way it is.

I Just Don’t Think It’s That Simple

Today it was painful to be alive.  Every fiber of my being was uncomfortable; I couldn’t stand the weight of my body today.  It hung on me.  I felt it in my jeans and felt every bite in my stomach.  If you think I’m being dramatic, I’m not; this is how I experience things sometimes, as someone in recovery from an eating disorder.   Ask someone else you know who’s in recovery from one.

I have days like this.  Bad days.  Days when I envision myself swinging into a binge cycle again.  Days when I envision swinging into a restrictive cycle as a result of the aforementioned binge cycle.  And I went into recovery ten (!!) years ago.  Sad and destructive?  Hardly.  Realistic, I think.  Given the other comorbid diagnoses I’ve dealt with.

I’ve talked about the “once you’ve recovered, you’ve recovered!” camp for a long time.  The people who claimed they had a “lightbulb” moment and never turned back, never put their body down again, never consulted with ED once more.  OK, being a bit (a bit) more humble now, I’ll bite (no pun intended): I bet there are a select few who’ve had this experience.  Perhaps the same amount who’ve married someone they’ve never fought with, or who had a mind-numbing spiritual experience and never craved a drink again.  But for most of us bozos on the bus, I just don’t think it’s that simple.

(Speaking of that, I really wanted to drink today.  But I didn’t.  Whoop de frickin da.)

For most of us, we wake up and don’t have time to meditate for twenty perfect minutes, and no, we weren’t going to wake up twenty minutes earlier, because we were up tossing and turning/up with our kids and needed that extra 20.  For most of us, we’re shot out of a cannon when our kid peels our eyelids open with their fingers/when our cat meows in our face.  We then head downstairs to find cat puke right in front of the bathroom doorway, and in between reaching for the bathroom cleaner, silently bemoan the fact that we still owe 25,000 in student loans and will never be able to afford a house – now, now we are judging ourselves for not being mindful and worrying senselessly, and our daughter is yelling for the TV to be turned on, that ever-destructive-causer-of-doom TV, and we’re reminding her to use her manners.  And that’s only the first 5 minutes.

That is how most of us go through our day.  Well, you’ll have to excuse me.  That’s how I go through it; I can’t speak for all of you.

That’s why, when I hear people speak of “never turning back” on recovery and being “free of ED”, I am skeptical.  Did never turning back account for those six weeks post-birth when you couldn’t exercise because your body was healing and your mind when nuts because of it?  No, it didn’t.  And did being “free of ED” chide you relentlessly when you decided to restrict your eating when your father died because it was the only way you could cope?  Yes, it did, because wasn’t I supposed to do this recovery thing perfectly?  And here I was, nine years in, having a small relapse?

Being perfect at recovery doesn’t work for me because being perfect was the essence of my life-killing eating disorder.

It’s important that I can screw up at this thing, and know that it’s still ok.  That it doesn’t mean this time I lose my job because I’m too weak; that it just means I go to more meetings and therapy.  I think, unfortunately, this is a chronic disease, and that’s not marketable in the field of recovery.  It’s not marketable to say, “You’re going to deal with a little of this for the rest of your life.”  But that’s how addiction is.  You have to keep an eye on it.  It’s always in wait.

And keeping an eye on myself everyday?  Is that a tedious thing?  No, it’s actually a beautiful, heartbreaking and staggering undertaking that has only served to better me as a person.  I’ve heard people in self-help meetings claim they are grateful for their addiction, and I jive with that.  The things I’ve discovered about myself due to this journey.  And, I think it’s really healthy and humble when one can name all the parts of themselves.  The addict, the fighter, the daughter, the singer, the crier, the writer.  To dismiss one part of yourself, even a dark part, would be doing a disservice to yourself.

Don’t get me wrong; I hope to God I wake up tomorrow and magically have the hypomanic get-up-and-go that I usually have; I hope I go for a run and get those wonderful ol’ endorphins rushing.  I wish I could have someone else’s brain.  But I don’t.  I have an eating disorder and I can’t drink and I have depression.  The grace in all of this, the marker that tells me that I’m growing, is that I now know this too shall pass.  I didn’t always know that.  And that’s a gift that didn’t magically appear to me one day.  It came to me after years of hard work on myself that really wasn’t all that simple.

Lovably Stupid

I can promise you I’ve done nothing interesting lately.

No, really.  I haven’t joined a choir like I want to, and I haven’t yet written that book I always say I’m going to.  I haven’t even repotted that morning glory plant that my mother gave me from her garden, and I probably never will.  Instead, I spend my mornings teaching Fiona frustration tolerance when she truly believes not turning the TV on within two seconds will break her, and I spend my nights gazing into the mirror, examining the few, small white hairs that have popped up in my eyebrows, of all places.  Which makes me think of my Dad, because he still had chestnut hair on his head the day he left this Earth.

I didn’t cry for three months.  Three months!  That’s a huge deal in a depressive’s world.  Especially when it’s still within six months of losing a loved one.  And I think, in addition to a slight medication tweak, I just didn’t want to feel.  I’d spent three months, sitting on the couch, watching the minutes tick by mindlessly, ignoring my husband because it was the first thing I could.  Brutal?  Totally.  But it happened.

So I turned to exercise for an endorphin rush.  And I did again…and again.  Every day until it became boring and routine.  Something-I-had-to-do-or-I-wouldn’t-be-ok.  And then I binged on chocolate and sugar at night because the routine moderate exercise I engaged in afforded me it.

And I was empty.

I see grief in stages like this:

1.  The house is knocked down.  Torn to shreds.

2.  You build the structure of the house back up.  It’s up, but there’s no adornment.  It’s empty, but it’s there.

…and that’s where I am.  That’s how far I’ve gotten and that’s how this intellectual sums it up.  I’ll get back to you on the rest when there’s more adornment in my life.

I guess I haven’t been up to anything interesting because I’ve been rebuilding the structure.

And there’s all this static in my head (that’s a Six Feet Under reference, for all of you with good TV taste out there) about how I should be grieving.  How my dad was old and I fucking knew this was coming for years and how when I was 15 I knew I’d have a dead dad before the rest of the world.  I-knew-it-so-get-over-it.  I-do-this-for-a-living-so-I-should-know-how-to-handle-it.  He-could-be-a-jerk-so-maybe-you-should-keep-quiet-about-your-grief-when-he-hurt-others.  Judgment upon judgment upon judgment.  And it’s echoed by our society, millions of people who say “it’s a part of life”.  And it is.  And so we intellectually get it, but are ill-equipped to deal with the emotions when we realize THEY ARE NEVER COMING BACK.  At least in this living form.

Truth is, I never knew how much I was like my Dad until he was dead.

Humans can be so loveably stupid.

I went to my psychic last week (yes, that’s right, I have a psychic.  His name is Tarek and he’s fabulous, and I also take medication for depression, and eat sugar, and the world has not spontaneously combusted yet.).  Besides asking me if my husband had a gay brother, and accurately describing the lackluster quality of my response to John’s proposal last June, he told me,

“You have to find the new normal.”

OK.  What the fuck is that?

Is it being miraculously more mindful than I ever was before?  Is it finally taking up boxing?  Is it taking vacations with my mother because she doesn’t have a spouse now?  Is it chopping my hair off?  Is it becoming this person I never knew I was?

I have no idea.  I just keep trying new things right now…and yet, trying not to make any big decisions.

My mom gave me my Dad’s personal file for me (yes, he kept files on each one of us.  Not like, “It’s 9:42 am and Amanda just furtively stuffed something into her backpack” but more like pictures and articles in the Independent and shit.)  In it, I found some awful fourth grade pictures that only a father could love, and then there was this one:

manda

I have no memory of this being taken.  None.  But I look happy.  Despite (given the hairstyle/bathing suit time approximation) being consumed with an eating disorder.  And maybe that’s what’s propelled me through all these years – through classmates sexually harassing me, through my family’s mental health issues, and through putting down a drink and coming back from suicidality.  Maybe I knew that happiness was possible.  For even a fleeting second, and that life was worth hanging onto, for those fleeting moments of seeing a summer sunset or listening to your favorite song.  In a word, resiliency.  Looking back, I think my Dad knew how the scale (no pun intended) could have been easily tipped the other way, and he was worried.  Maybe he hung onto this picture because it was a memory where I was not crying because someone had harassed me for my weight, or because I had dropped out of college and couldn’t leave my bed.  It was a moment where I just WAS.  Despite the crap.

I have no clue where life is going.  I can only hope it’s full of things I never even imagined, like actually being a good partner and being ok with the ordinary and finding out how smart I really am.  Either way, I’ll be ok.   I always am.  It just takes some time.